Large «Problem Based Learning» Sessions – No problem with Miro Boards!

Schliessen Icon
PBL in Lecture Hall with Miro Boards and conventional Flipcharts

A problem based learning setting has been part of the first semester lecture "World Food System" for many years.
Students select from three scenarios with a challenging question. They dive deeper into the topic of their choice, identify questions and research on them to finally produce a blog post with the groups findings.
The first steps of this interactive group work were always a logistical challenge, with many different spaces, pin boards, paper and post-it notes for the team to juggle.
The lecture moved completely online in fall 2020 and went on to a hybrid format in fall 2021. Both semesters taught us a lot about working with MS Teams and Miro-Boards. We want to share the successful work in the lecture hall with Miro Boards in this setting.

Imagine, you are at the coffee shop with your colleagues to get a cup of coffee. All of a sudden, a discussion starts on the choice of milk for the cappuccino. There are different options to chose from: organic cow’s milk and the plant based alternatives made of almond, soy or oat. But which one to chose now? Which is really better for the environment and your health?
Someone turns to you and says: «you study environmental science/food science, you surely know the right choice!?»

This is one of three scenarios that student groups in the first semester lecture «World Food System» (about 120 students from two study programs) can chose from in their problem-based learning setting.
All scenarios cover aspects of sustainability of food and the food system life cycle.

The task is divided into seven steps that are clearly outlined in the learning material. The first 5 steps are worked through in the lecture hall in a 60 minute kick-off session. The group is accompanied by a tutor.
The goal for each group is to clarify terms, identify issues, analyse the problems with their existing knowledge, cluster explanations and finally to form research questions.
This kick-off of the group work in presence required a lot of organisation of space and material (pin boards, flip chart paper, post-it notes) for all groups.
The need to move to an online format in fall 2020 showed that the group work can also be efficiently done online. With the use of Microsoft shared documents and PowerPoint templates, the first steps towards a digital representation of the group work were taken.

In fall 2021 this experience was used to build a hybrid format of the class. The use of MS Teams was extended, so that all group communication could go through the channels in Teams and students who were quarantined could still take part in the group work.

For the kick-off session the online whiteboard Miro came into play. Miro was used to build a template for the first 5 steps of the process and allowed the groups to work in the lecture hall, sitting in acceptable distance from each other. A short technical and practical introduction was sufficient to get all students started. The digital representation of the whiteboard enabled all students to work actively and creatively in the process and use as many stickers and post-its as were needed, without any material to be shifted around.

In addition to the low organisational effort, the boards allowed for a supervision of all groups at a quick glance, without having to move around in different locations. It was easy to pinpoint, where groups might need support and to follow their steps in the process. The digital representation also made it easier for the groups to follow up on their work and continue in the process of the task. No extra documentation was required.
The teaching team will continue to use this format on the digital whiteboard.

You can read the final blog posts in the World Food Systems› Polybook